The Power of Demand
Electrical demand management is a strategy used by utility companies to manage peak consumption. For commercial customers, utility companies often include electric demand charges for the maximum power used during a specified time period, measured in $/kW. This is in addition to the charge for power consumed measured in $/kWh. Rate structures generally vary by region and utility company, but the premise is the same. Strategies designed to avoid or minimize the impact of electric demand to reduce operating cost are not a new idea; however, these designs are used primarily in facilities that are large power users where the operation of energy consuming systems can be scheduled to take advantage of the rate structure.
The energy performance of a building is dependent on choices made by the occupants about the proper use and maintenance of building systems. Thus, controlling and adjusting occupant behavior is important to ensuring the full potential of high performance facilities. Traditionally, the design team’s role on a project ends when the building is built and all of the post-construction documentation is provided to the owner. Systems in modern-day buildings are complex, especially for users who lack training in architecture or engineering. These misunderstood systems are often incorrectly altered which ultimately impacts building energy consumption. Design, commissioning, and energy professionals can positively impact building performance by training the building occupants on how their systems work.
The techniques for demand avoidance described in this article are so subtle that occupants rarely detect the changes. In this article, actual data and case studies are presented from educational facilities showing the cost of implementation and the return on investment (ROI). The ROI for these system improvements is commonly less than two years.